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WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley gives his picks for the Best Movies of 2012.
WTOP Film Critic Jason Fraley gives his picks for the Best Movies of 2012.
Jennifer Lawrence rode The Hunger Games all the way to the bank, but her best performance came beside Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook. David O. Russells tale of bipolar disorder felt a little bipolar itself, starting as a gritty look at mental illness and ending like a cliched blend of Dirty Dancing and The Fan. Still, the happy ending works because its set up by Coopers prior thrashing of Ernest Hemingway Why cant more stories be positive Russell likes spinning downtrodden individuals into heroic lovers (i.e. Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams in The Fighter). Silver Linings may not win acting Oscars like Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, but the unique blend of laughs, heartaches and NFL superstitions earns a spot on my list as the feel-good date movie of the year. 9733 9733 9733 12 REVIEW Romance, sports, meds and the joy of Silver Linings
Jennifer Lawrence rode "The Hunger Games" all the way to the bank, but her best performance came beside Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro in "Silver Linings Playbook." David O. Russell's tale of bipolar disorder felt a little bipolar itself, starting as a gritty look at mental illness and ending like a cliched blend of "Dirty Dancing" and "The Fan." Still, the happy ending works because it's set up by Cooper's prior thrashing of Ernest Hemingway: "Why can't more stories be positive?" Russell likes spinning downtrodden individuals into heroic lovers (i.e. Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams in "The Fighter"). "Silver Linings" may not win acting Oscars like Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, but the unique blend of laughs, heartaches and NFL superstitions earns a spot on my list as the feel-good date movie of the year.


★ ★ ★ 1/2


REVIEW: Romance, sports, meds and the joy of 'Silver Linings'

Summer 2012 brought plenty of smash superhero blockbusters, from Marvels The Avengers to The Amazing Spider- Man. Still, The Dark Knight Rises takes the cake for style and substance, as Christopher Nolan turned the final chapter of his Batman trilogy into a commentary on the 99 vs. 1 percent. Tom Hardy made a back- breaking villain, Anne Hathaway dazzled as Catwoman and Joseph Gordon- Levitt was groomed to take over as Robin, the hints of which make repeat viewings all the more rewarding. Box office receipts were stunted by the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, after which Christian Bale visited families of the victims and Nolan issued one of the nations best statements of remorse. Despite the tragedy, lines stretched around the block at the Uptown in D.C. This is exactly how a studio tent-pole flick should be done. 9733 9733 9733 12 REVIEW Nolans final Batman rises to the occasion
Summer 2012 brought plenty of smash superhero blockbusters, from "Marvel's The Avengers" to "The Amazing Spider- Man." Still, "The Dark Knight Rises" takes the cake for style and substance, as Christopher Nolan turned the final chapter of his Batman trilogy into a commentary on the 99 vs. 1 percent. Tom Hardy made a back- breaking villain, Anne Hathaway dazzled as Catwoman and Joseph Gordon- Levitt was groomed to take over as Robin, the hints of which make repeat viewings all the more rewarding. Box office receipts were stunted by the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado, after which Christian Bale visited families of the victims and Nolan issued one of the nation's best statements of remorse. Despite the tragedy, lines stretched around the block at the Uptown in D.C. This is exactly how a studio tent-pole flick should be done.


★ ★ ★ 1/2


REVIEW: Nolan's final Batman 'rises' to the occasion

Part of the magic of movies is their unique ability to let us escape. Life of Pi let us escape more than any other film this year, thanks to Ang Lees wondrous visuals on the high seas. What starts out as a Satyajit Ray coming of age story transforms into a Rudyard Kipling tale of jungle law, a modern day Mowgli and Shere Khan trapped in a lifeboat. The film is packed with impressive CGI tigers and seasick hallucinations, putting Lee on 3Ds premature Mount Rushmore with James Cameron (Avatar) and Martin Scorsese (Hugo). More impressively, the visual effects are layered with a clever social commentary on storytelling, asking us why we choose to tell -- and believe -- certain stories. This film fable isnt for kids its for young-at- heart adults still searching their souls. 9733 9733 9733 12 REVIEW Life of Pi brings crouching tiger, hidden parable
Part of the magic of movies is their unique ability to let us escape. "Life of Pi" let us escape more than any other film this year, thanks to Ang Lee's wondrous visuals on the high seas. What starts out as a Satyajit Ray coming of age story transforms into a Rudyard Kipling tale of jungle law, a modern day Mowgli and Shere Khan trapped in a lifeboat. The film is packed with impressive CGI tigers and seasick hallucinations, putting Lee on 3D's premature Mount Rushmore with James Cameron ("Avatar") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"). More impressively, the visual effects are layered with a clever social commentary on storytelling, asking us why we choose to tell -- and believe -- certain stories. This film fable isn't for kids; it's for young-at- heart adults still searching their souls.


★ ★ ★ 1/2


REVIEW: 'Life of Pi' brings crouching tiger, hidden parable

Destined to become this winters most controversial movie, Quentin Tarantinos Django Unchained follows an African American slave (Jamie Foxx) seeking swift bounty-hunt revenge. Christoph Waltz returns after winning an Oscar in Tarantinos Inglorious Basterds, while Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson make stunning heel turns. Equal parts horrific and hilarious, the film is rooted in exploitation flicks and laced with Peckinpah-style violence and symbolic blood splatter on cotton fields. Spike Lee tweeted his disapproval American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. Indeed, the films constant use of the N-word made me extremely uncomfortable, unlike its inference in Blazing Saddles, and the last 40 minutes could have been scrapped. Still, the films underlying moral arc is just, and a KKK mockery scene with Jonah Hill was the funniest Ive seen all year. An off the chain theater-going experience. 9733 9733 9733 12
Destined to become this winter's most controversial movie, Quentin Tarantino's "Django: Unchained" follows an African American slave (Jamie Foxx) seeking swift bounty-hunt revenge. Christoph Waltz returns after winning an Oscar in Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," while Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson make stunning heel turns. Equal parts horrific and hilarious, the film is rooted in exploitation flicks and laced with Peckinpah-style violence and symbolic blood splatter on cotton fields. Spike Lee tweeted his disapproval: "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust." Indeed, the film's constant use of the N-word made me extremely uncomfortable, unlike its inference in "Blazing Saddles," and the last 40 minutes could have been scrapped. Still, the film's underlying moral arc is just, and a KKK mockery scene with Jonah Hill was the funniest I've seen all year. An "off the chain" theater-going experience.


★ ★ ★ 1/2

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What a year for Americas art-house Andersons. Wes Andersons Moonrise Kingdom was adorable, while Paul Thomas Andersons The Master remains the most challenging, gorgeous, hypnotizing theater experience Ive had all year. Joaquin Phoenix plays a sex- crazed drifter taken in by Philip Seymour Hoffmans founder of a cult religion (i.e. Scientology). The Jonny Greenwood score and Mihai Malaimare Jr. compositions frame powerful brainwashing scenes that reveal some of the years best acting. By the time Amy Adams stares directly at us, insisting her eyes are a different color, Anderson has us right where he wants us. Like Phoenix, were transfixed, brainwashed, going along for what we think is a purpose driven tale, only to leave us grasping for answers. Daring filmmaking at its symbolic finest. 9733 9733 9733 12 REVIEW Phoenix rises in new cult classic The Master
What a year for America's art-house Andersons. Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" was adorable, while Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" remains the most challenging, gorgeous, hypnotizing theater experience I've had all year. Joaquin Phoenix plays a sex- crazed drifter taken in by Philip Seymour Hoffman's founder of a cult religion (i.e. Scientology). The Jonny Greenwood score and Mihai Malaimare Jr. compositions frame powerful brainwashing scenes that reveal some of the year's best acting. By the time Amy Adams stares directly at us, insisting her eyes are a different color, Anderson has us right where he wants us. Like Phoenix, we're transfixed, brainwashed, going along for what we think is a "purpose driven" tale, only to leave us grasping for answers. Daring filmmaking at its symbolic finest.


★ ★ ★ 1/2


REVIEW: Phoenix rises in new cult classic 'The Master'

If Life of Pi engrossed us in wondrous visuals, Amour forced us to watch tough end-of-life situations. Director Michael Hanekes extreme long takes allow no escape, earning him the Palme dOr at Cannes after such stunning efforts as Cache and The White Ribbon. Like Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond, Amour casts legendary French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant (The Conformist) and Emmanuelle Riva (Hiroshima, Mon Amour) in the twilight of their careers. As Trintignant describes a film he once saw as a child, he sums up Amour. Youll walk out struggling to recall the story, but will be overcome with emotion surrounding the true meaning of love in sickness and in health. 9733 9733 9733 9733
If "Life of Pi" engrossed us in wondrous visuals, "Amour" forced us to watch tough end-of-life situations. Director Michael Haneke's extreme long takes allow no escape, earning him the Palme d'Or at Cannes after such stunning efforts as "Cache" and "The White Ribbon." Like Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in "On Golden Pond," "Amour" casts legendary French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant ("The Conformist") and Emmanuelle Riva ("Hiroshima, Mon Amour") in the twilight of their careers. As Trintignant describes a film he once saw as a child, he sums up "Amour." You'll walk out struggling to recall the story, but will be overcome with emotion surrounding the true meaning of love: in sickness and in health.


★ ★ ★ ★

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Golden Camera at Cannes, Beasts of the Southern Wild makes mythic poetry out of gritty, third-world conditions. Shot with non- actors on real post- Katrina locations, the coming-of-age story tells of survival and community after a levee breaks in the Louisiana delta. Six-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis is a revelation as the adorably tough Hushpuppy, who slurps crab meat, survives a hurricane, bonds with her father, searches for her mom and stares down fantastical beasts known as Aurochs. If a tear down her tiny cheek doesnt give you a lump in your throat, I dont know what will. The Academy may not have the guts to give her Best Actress, but she deserves to be there on Oscar night. 9733 9733 9733 9733 REVIEW Beast child performance lifts Wild to greatness
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and the Golden Camera at Cannes, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" makes mythic poetry out of gritty, third-world conditions. Shot with non- actors on real post- Katrina locations, the coming-of-age story tells of survival and community after a levee breaks in the Louisiana delta. Six-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis is a revelation as the adorably tough Hushpuppy, who slurps crab meat, survives a hurricane, bonds with her father, searches for her mom and stares down fantastical beasts known as Aurochs. If a tear down her tiny cheek doesn't give you a lump in your throat, I don't know what will. The Academy may not have the guts to give her Best Actress, but she deserves to be there on Oscar night.


★ ★ ★ ★


REVIEW: 'Beast' child performance lifts 'Wild' to greatness

While Skyfall revived 007, the years best CIA tales were real, from Argo to Zero Dark Thirty. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal reunite after their Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (2009) to chronicle the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The story is told through the eyes of Maya, a determined CIA agent who shows the boys how its done. Move over, Jodie Foster. Theres a new badass heroine orchestrating a night-vision climax in the monsters lair, and her name is Jessica Chastian. At times, her character feels like an on-screen proxy for Bigelow, who layers the film with marvelous detail, down to a black cat crossing the screen before a suicide bombing. Limited engagements have begun in New York and Los Angeles, before coming to Washington on Jan. 11. Fifty years from now, Oscar historians may look back and say this was Bigelows peak. 9733 9733 9733 9733
While "Skyfall" revived 007, the year's best CIA tales were real, from "Argo" to "Zero Dark Thirty." Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal reunite after their Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" (2009) to chronicle the hunt for Osama bin Laden. The story is told through the eyes of Maya, a determined CIA agent who shows the boys how it's done. Move over, Jodie Foster. There's a new badass heroine orchestrating a night-vision climax in the monster's lair, and her name is Jessica Chastian. At times, her character feels like an on-screen proxy for Bigelow, who layers the film with marvelous detail, down to a black cat crossing the screen before a suicide bombing. Limited engagements have begun in New York and Los Angeles, before coming to Washington on Jan. 11. Fifty years from now, Oscar historians may look back and say this was Bigelow's peak.


★ ★ ★ ★

If the story were made up, no one would have believed it. The fact that it was true made for one unbelievable movie. Argo captured the zeitgeist of the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi by telling the tale of a CIA rescue mission during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, where U.S. diplomats posed as a Canadian film crew in order to escape. The scenes in Tehran make for nail-biting parallel action, while John Goodman and Alan Arkin spit a profane trademark that could catch on like FUBAR. Im beginning to like Affleck more as a filmmaker than an actor, having co-written Good Will Hunting and directed Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Not since Apollo 13 have we seen a real-life tale so thrilling, so inspiring and so patriotic as Argo, celebrating the best of Washington intelligence and the height of Hollywood imagination. 9733 9733 9733 9733 REVIEW Art imitates life in Afflecks new CIA thriller Argo
If the story were made up, no one would have believed it. The fact that it was true made for one unbelievable movie. "Argo" captured the zeitgeist of the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi by telling the tale of a CIA rescue mission during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979, where U.S. diplomats posed as a Canadian film crew in order to escape. The scenes in Tehran make for nail-biting parallel action, while John Goodman and Alan Arkin spit a profane trademark that could catch on like "FUBAR." I'm beginning to like Affleck more as a filmmaker than an actor, having co-written "Good Will Hunting" and directed "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town." Not since "Apollo 13" have we seen a real-life tale so thrilling, so inspiring and so patriotic as "Argo," celebrating the best of Washington intelligence and the height of Hollywood imagination.


★ ★ ★ ★


REVIEW: Art imitates life in Affleck's new CIA thriller 'Argo'

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Ive seen it now three times and each time my admiration for Steven Spielbergs biopic grows. While the film should have ended with Lincolns departure for Fords Theater, Daniel Day-Lewis performance belongs to the ages, bringing our greatest president to life with nuanced politicking, Euclid lessons and comic relief. Those with short attention spans may echo a cabinet member who says, Not another one of your stories, but we should all lean in, listen and learn. The important should never become the victim of the expedient, so in choosing the Best Film of 2012, I echo Lincolns choice between ending the war vs. ending slavery If you could look into the seeds of time, which will grow larger In an era of Twilight teens, Lincoln is a vampire hunter, cloaked in immense power, settling the issue of instant gratification forever and providing hope that inspired, intelligent films shall not perish from this earth. 9733 9733 9733 9733 REVIEW History comes to life in Spielbergs Lincoln
I've seen it now three times and each time my admiration for Steven Spielberg's biopic grows. While the film should have ended with Lincoln's departure for Ford's Theater, Daniel Day-Lewis' performance belongs to the ages, bringing our greatest president to life with nuanced politicking, Euclid lessons and comic relief. Those with short attention spans may echo a cabinet member who says, "Not another one of your stories," but we should all lean in, listen and learn. The important should never become the victim of the expedient, so in choosing the Best Film of 2012, I echo Lincoln's choice between ending the war vs. ending slavery: "If you could look into the seeds of time, which will grow larger?" In an era of "Twilight" teens, "Lincoln" is a vampire hunter, cloaked in immense power, settling the issue of instant gratification forever and providing hope that inspired, intelligent films shall not perish from this earth.


★ ★ ★ ★


REVIEW: History comes to life in Spielberg's 'Lincoln'

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